Television

'Sab is the only channel in India that is doing daily comedies' : Sab EVP and business head Anooj Kapoor

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The top three Hindi general entertainment channels punched hard at the second-tier channels with differentiated content, high-cost reality shows and big ticket movies. Barring Sab, the others such as Star One and Sahara One cracked under pressure.

So what did Sab do right? It correctly positioned itself as a family comedy entertainment channel and brought in light-hearted content that worked.

Sab had a basket of shows that crossed 1 TVR, catapaulting the channel to 101 GRPs for the week ended 12 June.

The channel will stick to its low-cost programming but also introduce family-based reality shows.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com, Sab EVP and business head Anooj Kapoor talks about how the channel progressed in a difficult environment and what content is planned for its growth.

Excerpts:

The top three Hindi general entertainment channels are seeing high drama. How has Sab managed to march ahead in this adverse environment for the second-tier GECs?

The channel has traveled a long way since its 28 GRP days that it used to collect two and a half years ago. We have even crossed 100 GRPs. Our progress happened after we repositioned Sab as a family entertainment channel. We aired daily family comedy shows, showcased warm and lovable characters and mixed differentiation with familiar content.





The familiarities come in the form of joint family settings, female protagonists, and linear shows running from Monday to Thursday. The differentiating part is content that is light hearted and positive. We have the only set of shows where the consumer and ‘sasural‘ both love the female protagonist and the channel is as such the only one which has a brand slogan in the GEC sector. This helps in our positioning and it is now clear, specific and well defined.

What led to this change of positioning of SAB from a youth to a comedy channel?

Earlier the wisdom in the channel was one which felt the TG should be between the 16-25 years age group. But we forgot that the viewership pattern in India is different. There are more single TV households and it is the women who control the remote.

Thus all prime time spots need the women onboard as that is the key. That‘s why all shows depicting women suffering, like dowry issues, female infanticides etc. which are such deep rooted stigmas, strike a chord with the audience that is predominantly female, and can empathise and relate easily to what‘s shown.

We, on the other hand, are addressing the fact that times have changed, families are now more nuclear, and there is more balance and light-heartedness. We have barely done 50 per cent of what we can do, but consumers have understood the message we are sending-"Laugh as a family, than cry alone."

Has this led to an increase in advertisement revenues?

Yes, in the last 30 months our advertising revenues have increased as well. Earlier we had just about 35 advertisers on board, but right now we have more than 60. Back then, Star One and Sahara were in the 70s and 80s as far as GRP‘s go and now they are nowhere close to us, even though they have bigger budgets. In fact even NDTV Imagine, which we are only marginally behind on the overall GRPs and now ahead of in the primetime Monday-Thursday slot, has a seven times higher budget than ours.

Are you looking to come out with some high cost production shows in the future, seeing the current trend in GECs?

No, we are not looking to do any high cost productions since they are currently not needed, as we have not yet hit the stagnation level and are still growing at a steady pace. We are also not looking for funding of any kind.

How has the journey into the comedy space been for SAB?

We are currently the only channel in India that is doing daily comedies. Most channels will run a weekly comedy at the most. Apart from this, our silent comedy, Gutur Gu, is only the second ever silent comedy to be really successful, after Mr. Bean, and we are now going to sell the show abroad via syndication. So, I‘d say the journey into this genre has been hugely satisfying, successful and fun for all of us.

We are on the lookout for non-fiction or reality shows. Our plan is to have a family-based concept for a reality show

Have the lower budgets hampered on the production value?

Well not really, as we have been able to manage our costs very well, even though the sets we create and use are very huge too. In Lapataganj we have created an entire village, while in Tarak Mehta Ka Ultah Chasmah the set is an entire colony. And to top it all in our newest show to be aired, Papad Pol Shahuddin Rathod Ki Rangeen Duniya, we have created an entire town as the set!

Thus we have been able to improve at an operational level without compromising on our sets or production values, while maintaining a tight budget and getting the desired results.

What are you the most proud of when it comes to SAB‘s current standing and position in the market?

Currently 5 of our shows have a 1+ rating and this is really quite an achievement. I say this not only because it is quite difficult to have shows with even a rating of 1, but more so as we achieved this irrespective of the huge constraints we face as a channel. These include us not having an afternoon slot. Due to budgeting, our programming is restricted predominantly from Mondays-Thursday; the number of hours of programming and even our overall reach are all major hurdles we are currently faced with.

What areas are you concentrating on in terms of investments why?

We are going to invest a lot in distribution. Trying to move from the 38 to 55 per cent reach is the first gap we are hoping to plug. In just a few weeks of work, we have already managed to move from 38 to 41. We are also going to improve the placement of the channel.

Besides, we want to expand our programming to 6 days, including Saturdays, without trying anything different in terms of genre.

The current flavour of all channels has been reality shows and non-fiction. Is SAB going to venture into that space as well?

As far as non-fiction or reality shows go, that is definitely on the cards too, and is a genre we would like to look at. We are, in fact, on the look out for a family-based concept for a reality show but are yet to come across something.

SAB is one of the few channels that markets the entire channel and not just shows. What are the initiatives you are currently involved in?

We are in the midst of many marketing initiatives right now, specifically in places where families will be together like theatres, bus shelters and other OOH areas.



We even had a SAB mela in Ahemdabad which was a family fair attended by 27000 people and this was truly a one of its kind consumer connect campaign.

The fair was another platform for family entertainment where people even got to meet and spend time with many of the artists from the shows they like. The fair also had a school connect program, where different schools and college teams participated in entertainment activities like group dance performances. We also had a lot of local artists and cultural flavours at the fair, and the overall response was so encouraging that we have decided to repeat this initiative in 15 more cities this year.

Our other marketing plans as a channel include a radio promo, SAB ka Damadji wherein the "damadji" character created comes on air and talks to a group of ladies who ask him questions and he answers them via jokes and funny anecdotes.

Also the virals we have been airing have done very well and have helped get in more viewers.

Tell us a little about your new show, Papad Pol Shahuddin Rathod Ki Rangeen Duniya, that will be aired soon?

We like taking renowned pieces of literature and using it for our shows. This is the basis of our new show too, which Shahuddin Rathod, an author with global following, has penned. His humour is warm, family based, closed knit and has a message.





Papad Pol is like a street or machala where most of the people living are in the papd business. It is their lives and day-to-day interaction that forms the show.

What‘s next for SAB viewers to look forward to?

Next in the line for SAB is another silent comedy which will hopefully hit the air by July. The pilot has already been shot and approved. Apart from that, another show along the lines of Pink Panther, which is about a bumbling detective who solves crimes, will be specifically for weekend viewing.

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